So, you want to start breeding alpacas. You got a farm loan or a home equity loan to start your alpaca business or maybe you just forked out the cash. However you got started, your alpaca investment is substantial and you don't want to fail.
There is some basic information you must know about alpaca breeding. We will try to cover the basics and more on this site. Hang on and get ready to learn about your alpacas reproduction.
Your female alpaca is an "induced ovulator". What this means is that just the physical act of "a roll in the hay" with a male alpaca, along with the males sounds, causes your dam to ovulate. Very important fact to know if you are a breeder.
This means breeding alpacas can happen at any time of the year. The above fact, also, means that you need to keep your males from your females when you don't want them to get pregnant. There is no "season" for breeding but, most alpaca breeders choose to breed their females so crias are born in the spring.
Your dam will carry her baby anywhere from 315 to 370 days. Most
will deliver around the 11.5 month mark. You can get our
free gestation schedule here
so you can see when you breed a female, and she conceives, when the baby should be due.
Now you know why it takes so long to increase the herds of alpacas. You have to wait a year for one female to produce one baby. Alpacas rarely have twins.
You should not breed your dam before the age of 12 months. Most breeders wait until the dam is 15 months old or 45 kg. When you breed a dam too young, it can cause problems or the pregnancies just fail.
You may own a stud or you may take your dam to another alpaca farm that provides stud services for a fee. Whichever, the stud must be able to impregnate your female.
A male alpaca may have the required amorous thoughts before age 2, but he usually cannot get a female pregnant. We say usually because there have been cases of males being ready before then. We removed our male alpacas from the female pen by age 10 months, although 12 months would still probably be all right.
The alpacas penis is attached to the prepuce and cannot extend in animmature male alpaca. Once the male has reached maturity at 2.5 to 3 years of age, the penis detaches and the male can perform his duties. Before maturity, the male is "shooting blanks" as one owner told us. After maturity, the male should have good sperm production.
Young studs from age 2.5 to 3 years should only be used a couple of times a week for matings. Fully mature studs can be used twice a day but require a rest period every ten days.
Believe it or not, the size of an alpacas testicles really makes a difference on how much he'll be able to perform. Those with larger testicles, will make better studs (providing conformation, bite, etc. are good). The average size for an adult alpaca male testicle is 3.7 x 2.5 centimeters (length x width).
There are two methods we have used for breeding alpacas.
Which one to choose depends on your alpacas. Mostly we used pen mating. Paddock was used once when we were having difficulty getting one of our females pregnant.
Of course, there is always artificial insemination, too. We prefer a more natural approach to breeding alpacas.
Watch the following video to see alpaca mating in action:
To protect your alpaca investment, you must be prepared for problems. The best way to prepare is to be as educated as possible so you can spot problems early or understand what course of action to take when a problem is detected.
As in human reproduction, problems can occur in reproduction when breeding alpacas. The problem can be present in either the dam or the sire.
To avoid problems at the start, have a thorough vet check done when purchasing animals for your alpaca business. This is a business, after all, so treat it like one by making sound business choices. Don't pick the first alpaca you see because they are cute. Get a thorough assessment of this alpacas breeding ability.
The genitalia should be examined by a vet to make sure there are no congenital deformities before breeding alpacas. A males semen characteristics and testosterone concentration can be checked prior to a purchase. If a female is already pregnant, then you know they can get pregnant and retain a pregnancy. If not pregnant, you can have an ultrasound done to make sure that the internal organs are there and correct.
Look at the female genitalia to make sure there is no opaque discharge. If your female has an infection it must be cleared before mating.
It's very important to have your dam at optimum nutrition. If she is too fat or too thin, she may be unable to conceive. Also, make sure she is getting enough selenium. Females without adequate selenium may be unable to conceive. Be careful, though, too much selenium is toxic.
Reproductive Problems in the Dam
Below is a list of some problems that can occur in the alpaca dam that can cause infertility or possible loss of cria:
Wow, seems like a lot can go wrong when breeding alpacas. Well, it usually goes right. Most problems once identified can be fixed. Don't forget to check the obvious, too. Did the male actually penetrate? Is your female stressed? An alpaca being absolutely infertile is actually rare.
Reproductive Problems in the Alpaca Stud
When breeding alpacas, the stud is the star. He must be able to perform and produce cria. If you have a stud that was producing cria but suddenly becomes infertile, check for heat stress. Heat is the most common cause of infertility in a producing stud.
Here is a list of some reproductive problems encountered in the male alpacas:
There are three ways to determine if the stud was able to impregnate your dam.
1. Stud Testing - The female is put back in with the male. If she spits and will not "go down", it's likely she is pregnant.
2. Blood Progesterone Levels - Elevated levels are consistent with a successful pregnancy.
3. External Ultrasound - Your vet can visualize the alpacas pregnancy on the ultrasound rectally starting at 12 days post-breeding.
Hopefully, the "roll in the hay" was successful and you have a cria on the way. Observe the pregnancy and let nature take its course.
If your alpaca is having difficulty conceiving or retaining a pregnancy, take heart, most problems can be solved.
One of our females had no trouble getting pregnant and had a cria and then would not conceive or retain a pregnancy. A uterine infection was suspected but not able to be determined. After a douche by the vet, our alpaca got pregnant and retainted that pregnancy and had no problems with subsequent pregnancies and conception.
Breeding alpacas has it's challenges, but the rewards are well worth it once you see your pronking cria. Here's to good luck and successful breeding!